Thinking Christianly about Marriage

By Mike Miller

The issue of “same-sex marriage” is an extremely hot topic today, and many Christians are struggling with how to think and respond biblically. On the one hand, this issue is a simple one for the Christian. The Bible is clear that homosexual behavior is sinful and deviant. It is also clear that by definition, marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). According to the biblical framework, then, “same-sex marriage” is a nonsensical term. There can be no such thing.

On the other hand, even for the Christian, the issue is complex. I say it is complex because of the questions raised about legal rights and protections. Should people who love each other not be afforded the same legal status as others simply because of their sexual preferences? As Christians, shouldn’t we value people even if we don’t approve of their lifestyles? Therefore, while it might be easy for us to define marriage and develop a biblical position, what are we to think about public policy?

“Same-sex marriage” advocates believe that homosexuals are facing discrimination because they do not have the same right to marry that heterosexuals have. That is false. If marriage is a union between a man and a woman, homosexuals have the same right as anyone to enter into that union with someone of the opposite sex. They are being denied nothing. This is why they ultimately want to redefine marriage to be inclusive of their sexual preferences. They want to have the same kind of legal union, and they want to call it marriage. So, what’s wrong with that? Several things.

First, to allow homosexuals to “marry” one another strips marriage of one of its most fundamental purposes–procreation. To redefine marriage to allow for same-sex unions would be to deny the significance of having and raising children. Even if God is removed from the equation, nature has settled this issue for us. Two men or two women cannot make babies. Why is this important? This is what sets marriage apart from any other relationship. Marriage is more than just two people who love each other. Marriage is a special kind of relationship that results in the creation and development of the next generation. Homosexual unions can never fulfill this role.

Second, even though homosexuals can adopt or use other means such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization, they do not provide the balanced family structure that is only found in marriage. Their children will be raised either with two female parents or two male parents, thus failing to provide the complementarian role models afforded by a mommy and a daddy. While many parents are bad parents (and this isn’t only true of heterosexuals), the data clearly shows that the healthiest home is one that has both mother and father present, married, and actively involved in the lives of their children.

Third, if marriage is to be redefined simply based on a committed relationship between any two people who love each other, and if procreation is not a factor, then should it also include siblings or best friends? And if it’s based on sexual preference alone, should relationships with multiple partners be included? What about people with weird fetishes who have romantic feelings toward their pets or inanimate objects?

Simply (and not just from a biblical point of view), if the definition of marriage is based solely on emotional bonds with or without a sexual component, and if procreation is not an essential element, then what makes it a special relationship? Eventually, any group of people with any kind of affections would be able to make the same case for their particular segment of the population. Then those people would also want the same rights (property, custody, hospital visitation, etc.) as those in monogamous heterosexual marriages. But if marriage is defined traditionally, then it is a unique social bond and the foundation of family and society. Such a union should therefore entitle its participants to certain unique rights and privileges.

I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I see the only tenable Christian view as the one that upholds the sanctity of marriage as demanded by both Scripture and nature. A danger we now face as Christians, however, is the spirit with which we participate in this discussion. Let’s be sure to make our case rationally and respectfully as we treat one another as highly valued individuals created in the image of God. Emotions tend to flare on this issue, but we need to be careful to honor Christ in all our dealings with others (2 Timothy 2:23-26; 1 Peter 3:15-16).

The Bible on TV

I like movies. I also like to read. I especially like movies based on books I’ve read, and I’ve seen some really good ones in recent years, such as The Bourne Identity (and its sequels), The Hunger Games, and Jack Reacher. Good books. Good movies. There is one thing these all have in common, however: I always like the book better. As a rule, books are better than movies. It is impossible to put on the screen directly and comprehensively what is on the written page. Books are just better. And when it comes to the new miniseries, The Bible, the same is true. The book is much, much better.

Having said that, I’m enjoying watching the TV production so far. Of course, the writers and producers have employed much dramatic and artistic license. But thats to be expected, and that in itself is not something about which I get bent out of shape (in fact, I really liked the ninja-like angels). We didn’t complain about Cecil B. deMille’s 10 Commandments, which many Christians rightly see as a classic. Even Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which had word for word dialogue, added things visually that were not recorded in Scripture. Think about it like this. If you were explaining part of the Bible, you might not just read directly from the Bible. You would tell the story I. Your own words. This is also what happens in a sermon or Bible Study. The Bible is read, then the preacher or teacher uses illustrations and explanation to get point across.

Also, much of the Bible is left out of the TV show. That is necessary if the producers want to tell the entire story in 10 hours. After all, the Bible is a very long book covering about 4,000 years of history. 10 hours just isn’t much time.

The main question we should ask about any such movie is this: Is it true to the Bible? This is not the same as asking if it is precise and word for word in all it portrays, but whether it presents the Bible in a way that faithfully communicates the message and story of the Bible? My answer? Mostly.

The reason I say “mostly” instead of giving a straightforward “yes” is because there are a few factual errors. For example, when Abraham offers Isaac to the Lord, in the movie, the Lord provides lamb instead of ram. Also, the circumstances surrounding Moses fleeing Egypt are not entirely accurate. And Joshua refers to Jericho as standing between God’s people and the Promised Land (Jericho was in the Promised Land). Obviously, all of these are minor and do not contradict or diminish any core doctrinal truth. In fact, most of us have probably made mistakes like these when talking about the Bible, but we don’t see ourselves as promoting heresy. Neither should we judge The Bible so harshly.

Let me tell you some things I like about the miniseries so far:

1. Miracles are portrayed as miracles, not exaggerated natural events. When the Red Sea parts, it’s not just some shallow body of water that happened to succumb to prevailing winds during the dry season. God piled the water high both sides, and after the Israelites crossed on dry land, He released the sea to destroy the Egyptian army.

2. God is seen as the one true God, creator of all that exists and sovereign over all creation. He is the defender of His people, the hater of sin, and the keeper of all His promises.

3. Sin is seen for what it is–devastating and soul-destroying.

4. The Bible is portrayed as one consistent story about God instead of as a collection of disconnected stories. Viewers are given the opportunity to consider the grand narrative of Scripture from beginning to end, and this will help with understanding the Gospel better as Jesus is rightly seen as the fulfillment of prophecy and the hope of all mankind.

The bottom line? The Bible is not the Bible. However, it has piqued interest in the Bible, and the producers are trying to do it justice. While watching a 10 hour miniseries cannot replace reading the Bible, I do not believe any harm will come from watching it. In fact, I can see some potentially results. Perhaps Christians and non-Christians alike will have their interest in the Bible so aroused that they will desire to read it more consistently and more thoroughly. Perhaps in seeing the drama of Scripture portrayed so vividly, people will realize that the Bible is not some boring religious tome and will want to check it out for themselves. Moreover, if you have non- Christian friends watching it, you might have new opportunities for conversations about what you believe. And might I suggest giving them a Bible, offering to answer any questions, and inviting them to your own Bible Study and worship celebration?

So, enjoy The Bible. I am. And then pray for open doors to tell everyone you can about your great God who came to set His people free.

Are People Good?

By Mike Miller

While enduring physical therapy this morning, a strange news story come from the TV mounted on the wall. My therapist asked, “Why would people do that kind of thing?” I responded, “Because people are twisted.”

Another therapist who overheard (and who also knows what I do) said, “Pastor! How can you say that? All people are good.”

I responded, “No. All people are bad.”

She insisted, “No. No one is bad. Everyone is good.”

I then explained, “Well, not according to the Bible. The Bible says that no one is good. Not even one.” I continued, “But we don’t even need the Bible to tell us that. How else could we possibly explain the mess that this world is? There is no other rational explanation for all the evil done and for the general condition of society.”

She replied, “I think I’ll go wrap some Christmas presents,” and she was gone.

Now, if you’re like me, you always wonder if you could have handled a situation better. After all, while lying on my back having my hamstrings stretched to the breaking point was not really the most conducive setting for a theological discussion. But this is a good discussion to have, nevertheless.

The general consensus seems to be that all people are basically good until something in their lives makes them do bad things. And even when they do bad things—unspeakable things even—they are still considered fundamentally good, if not somewhat flawed. Our prisons are filled with people whose mommas often repeat the line, “But he’s really a good boy at heart.” We attend funerals of really horrible people to hear them being eulogized as “really good.” And even when something like a school shooting takes place, someone will inevitably say of the shooter, “I don’t understand. He was really a good kid.”

Is any of that logical? Does it really make sense? You see, we need to consider our worldviews. We need to evaluate whether our underlying beliefs are consistent—whether they match reality. And the conviction that all people are good is simply inconsistent with reality.

Even the usual culprits for causing bad behavior cannot bear the blame with any consistency. Does poverty cause bad behavior? Then how do we explain crooked corporate CEOs? Is lack of education to blame? Again, not only are CEOs typically well educated, but even educators do bad things. What about bad parenting? Indeed, bad parenting can adversely affect people’s behavior, but many people with rough childhoods succeed and do well, while people from well-adjusted families can also turn out bad.

Really, the only rational and consistent worldview is a biblical one. What reason does the Bible give for why people do bad things? People are bad. That means you and me as well. “But,” you might say, “I’m not a murderer or a bank robber. I’m not that bad.” Maybe not, but you and I know very well that our hearts are not as pure as a fresh snowflake. It’s not that we are all as bad as humanly possible, but we are all bad nevertheless. Romans 3:10-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Verse 23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Those words “none,” “no one,” and “all” are pretty absolute.

Do you see what good news this is? If all kinds of external things cause all the bad in the world, then we are without hope, for those things will never be fixed. But if the human heart is ultimately the problem, God has provided a solution: Jesus Christ. No man can change the human heart, even if we clean up our behavior. But when we turn to Jesus by faith, He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. That’s what it means to be born again.

So, aren’t you glad you aren’t just a hopeless product of your circumstances? Aren’t you glad there is hope for you? And aren’t you glad that hope doesn’t depend on others? The heart really is the heart of the problem, and the one who made your heart can give you a new one. Would you let Jesus change you today?